Boat Review by: Rick Layzell
“Ventura highway in the sunshine Where the days are longer The nights are stronger Than moonshine You're gonna go I know…”
Credit to the band America, who released this song in 1972
Fast forward to 2022 -- 50 years later and the opportunity to test the brand new Princecraft Ventura 23 RL. With thoughts of longer days ringing in my ears, we eagerly headed to the docks on Lac William deep in the heart of Quebec. As the largest model in the Ventura series, the new 23 RL brings forward a new interior design and floorplan while resting on a 23’1” overall length with a 101” beam. All that room gave the Princecraft engineering team ample opportunity to capitalize on space while responding to the multi-purpose needs of so many families.
To explore the Ventura series initially requires clarity on her hull design. Quite simply, this is a performance-oriented watercraft that adapts the many benefits of a pontoon boat while crossing over to the driving characteristics of a V-bottom runabout. Essentially, she is a lightweight (1,066 kg / 2,350 lb) aluminum deck boat and she gets you where you want to be with a high-performance deep V- reverse chine hull. Knowing in advance that our test boat was powered by a Mercury 250 V8 XL DTS (Digital Throttle & Shift) had me beaming with excitement.
Dockside she is striking. I’m a big fan of designers who pull the exterior design seamlessly through the interior space. The high gloss urethane exterior paint in Phantom Grey and decal package featured bold red striping at her stern above the gunnel and at mid ship below the gunnel. That red played tastefully into her interior vinyl’s, aesthetic appeal score. 10 out of 10.
Inside she seamlessly delivers on multi-purpose demands. The following are my favourites:
The ample sized forward casting deck features a seat base, is prewired for your choice of 12/24/36 V Trolling motor There is a lockable in floor ski compartment that will accommodate 7’ rods, two seat bases on the rear casting deck – which stow beautifully under the bow deck when not in use, and a 44” (77 L / 20 U.S. gal) electric filled & aerated livewell.
For family and/or friends:
The rear casting deck transforms into a huge rear lounger. Stow the fishing seats under the bow deck, add the easy to install rear cushions which stow beside the dinette table at mid ship, and the stern section of the Ventura becomes a huge playpen or tanning area. Slide the dinette area backrest forward to create even more space for lounging. Forward loungers in the bow section could readily accommodate five adults. Beverage holders are nicely recessed and there’s endless storage. All self draining roto molded design seemingly everywhere throughout the interior. At midship, the captain and first mate seats slide and swivel (captain’s is a twin width). Behind the first mate’s seat is the dinette table with a unique folding feature and a lounger for up to three guests. This creates a large dining/entertaining section in a 23’ watercraft.
For the captain – your helm station:
Ahead of the twin captain’s seat (we even had the bolster seat) is an extra wide fiberglass console with glove box, cell phone charger, cup holders, lighted toggle switches and smoked windscreen. We were treated to the optional Premium HP Sound system which added a Simrad Go7 system, high performance speakers and a 10” sub woofer with amp. I tested it and this sound system rocks.
When it was time to slip away from the docks, we did so with two of us on board, approximately ½ capacity of her built in 208 L / 55 U.S gal fuel tank on a damp and cool September morning with ambient air temperature holding at 5 degrees C. The Mercury 250 was given a chance to warm up as we slowly exited the marina and began our array of sea trials. Our process is to find an area, away from other boats and on water traffic that will not disturb cottagers and begin our process. We had agreed to run to the end of the lake where we would tackle sea trials including hole shot, cruising speeds, top speed, and a variety of boat handling maneuvers.
What we found was exceptional. The Ventura hull leapt out of the hole consistently in under 4 seconds – even if you load this package up with gear and guests hole shots are still going to bring a smile to your face. On this test we tackled top speed capabilities second and did she ever deliver! Repeatedly the Ventura 23 RL showed on my handheld GPS, 52 MPH at 5,900 RPM. She never chine walked nor did her hull get ‘loose’ as some hulls will at upper speed trials. We then moved on to cruising speeds which is my favourite as this is where boaters typically boat. What we found with our light load on board was that she liked 25 MPH at 3,500 RPM and she loved 31 MPH at 3,850 RPM. The difference maker was in how much of the boat we could get up and out of the water. At 31 mph she was skipping across the lake, and I was hardly even using the throttle meaning fuel economy would be great too.
Our final trials are when camera guru moves over to the tower boat to capture drone footage as well as a series of video and stills while I fly-by the camera boat (yes, I do love my job). On this chilly day I was fully able to put the Ventura through a series of hard and sharp turns to both port and starboard. With a nominal amount of engine trim adjustments, she responded exceptionally well.
Princecraft have been building great fishing and pontoon boats since 1954 and the engineering passions come through in this new model for 2023. I am absolutely confident that the Ventura 23 RL will be making lots of boating and fishing dreams come true for years to come.
|Dry weight:||2,350 lbs||1,066 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||55 US gal||208 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Mercury|
|Engine HP:||250 XL DTS|